Saturday, May 3, 2008

May 4: Ascension of the Lord Year A

May 4 Ascension of the Lord Year A
Readings: Acts 1:1-11; Ephesians 1:17-23; Matthew 28:16-20

This Sunday we celebrate the Ascension of our Lord into heaven. In the Creed we confess our faith in Christ who "ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father". But what exactly do we mean by saying that he ascended into heaven? We mean that the Risen Lord is not only totally alive, but he also sits at the Father's right hand. Being placed at the right hand is an expression that signifies the Father glorifying Christ and making him the Lord of all creation. To him "is given all power in heaven and on earth" (Mt. 28.18). God "has put all things under his feet, and made him as ruler of everything, the head of the Church; his body, the fullness of him who fills the whole creation". The ascension, however, does not mean that Jesus renounced his humanity. He remains one of us and head of his Body, the Church. The celebration of the ascension is an expression of our Christian hope that where, he our Head has gone before us, we, his Body will one day follow, to live forever in the Kingdom of the Father.

We must not think of the Ascension in terms of Christ going up and away from us and from the world, in purely scientific physical terms. The Ascension is not to be understood literally as if Jesus floated up into the sky between clouds to “heaven”, as if heaven is a physical place. The Ascension is the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to be always with us; with his Church. Above all it is a relationship with God and God is everywhere in the whole universe. Jesus did not have to ‘go’ anywhere to be with his Father. The Ascension is part of the Paschal Mystery of Christ: the suffering and death; the resurrection; ascension; and the sending of the Spirit. If the resurrection points to the crucified Jesus risen and alive, the Ascension points to the Risen Lord who now enters into the Father’s glory sharing equally the glory of the Father. In the language of faith, the ascension means "the entry" of Jesus into the complete and definitive communion with the Father. Jesus Christ enters into the fullness of the Father's glory, and makes it possible for those who belong to his Body, the Church, to follow. Indeed Jesus' entry into the presence of the Father makes it possible for his Church to receive the Holy Spirit who is God's continual presence with us. The message is this: The Ascension of Christ into heaven is about being present to us. This presence is different from the physical presence. It is a presence that permeates and saturates the entire cosmos. For St. Paul the ascension as has a cosmic dimension, namely the overthrow of demonic powers by Christ, who "has put all things under his feet". The Ascension invites us to reflect on the Ascension of our Lord in relation to the celebration of the Eucharist, in which we affirm that “Christ is risen and will come again." In the Eucharist we are also led to discern Christ’s enduring presence that continually challenges us to an ongoing self-surrender to his love that transforms us and those around us into his own glory.

©2008 John M. Mbinda

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